The Value of Values
by Sarah Wong
On the 21st of May 2021, the People team at Human Inc launched our organization’s renewed Core Values. These values are rooted in our fundamental beliefs, and supplement our Vision & Purpose to Humanise Business.
To help us commemorate such a meaningful day, we invited Gordon Gustavsson, the Head of Culture & Learning at IKEA Southeast Asia and Mexico to join us. As an organization that we greatly respect and admire, we were blessed to be inspired by him and his 35 years of experience in IKEA.
Sarah Wong, our People Lead, shared an elaborate post about the launch event here. When asked what her key learnings were from Gordon’s sharing session, in her own words, here’s what she had to say:
Key learning #1: Let’s get pregnant!
In the process of growing every day, you find new meaning to things that you never thought would be meaningful yesterday. That is what Gordon calls the moment “you are impregnated”.
For context, he shared that a turning point in his life was when he and his wife found out that they were pregnant with their eldest daughter.
From that moment on, details and snippets of what that means started to appear everywhere in his life – seeing parents pushing their strollers with their babies, kids running and playing, sales for baby clothes… All of these have always been there, but not things he took notice of before. He started to visualize the way in which his life would be with a child in his life. It was eye-opening and beautiful.
In a similar fashion, he reminded us that after this session, we are all pregnant – to open our eyes and minds to the details that our Core Values will add to our day-to-day work, which will ultimately add meaning to our lives and the value we bring to our organization and clients.
Key learning #2: Core Values are the essence of our way of working
Gordon has been in IKEA for over 35 years, yet he would still write IKEA’s 8 Core Values on a piece of paper and place it somewhere close to him in every meeting. Throughout the meeting, he would point to the Core Values and evaluate if the decisions they make are in line and fulfill their Core Values.
For example, did he or the meeting’s participants demonstrate “togetherness” as a Core Value in the meeting? If yes, that’s great! If not, they bring consciousness to it and discuss how they can improve on it in the next meeting. If a difficult decision needs to be made, they use the Core Values as a guide to ensure that they are not breaching them and potentially damaging their culture.
Key learning #3: Practice our Core Values with a team relationship
In many organizations, decision-making is centralized. The employee has to ask their manager for a decision, to answer questions, or even permission to do something. In Gordon’s words, that’s a “parent-child relationship” where consent is always needed. This promotes an unhealthy balance in the dynamic of employees and stifles empowerment, decision-making, and creativity.
Instead, we should build a “team relationship” where the organization’s Core Values are at its center, acting as a North Star. When faced with a dilemma or any difficulties, every employee should be able to use the Core Values as a compass to navigate their way through. The decision that best represents what the organization would do, is the best decision to be made. All colleagues – associates, the C-suite, office managers – will have the Core Values to guide what they do in all scenarios, and not rely solely on the integrity and wisdom of their ‘boss’.
Key learning #4: Run a marathon, not a sprint
The process of creating a set of Core Values is simple, but growing them and staying consistent is a harder and longer process. This is not to discourage us. Rather, it encourages us to make it simple and focus on execution and discipline.
We ought to think about how these Core Values can come alive in our daily interaction with our colleagues, from the way we conduct meetings with our clients, to the way we execute on a project. We will not always get it right, but as long as we keep trying and reflecting, we’ll get there together.
Thank you, Gordon! You have inspired us through your knowledge and experience, and will always be a part of how we perceive, understand, and implement our Core Values.
And now to you!
Are you pregnant?
Do your Core Values and culture inspire you daily?